Tuesday, June 16, 2015

University of Florida MS student Ryan Jiorle is a Fish Detective!

Ryan recently took a trip to Ireland to do ecological research at the Lough Hyne Marine Nature Reserve. Watch the video he made describing his project! We've also included some text from him further describing his work.

Last summer I had the opportunity to study marine ecology in southwestern Ireland under the International Research Experience for Students (IRES) program—a 5-week internship funded by the National Science Foundation. Working jointly with the Oregon Institute of Marine Biology (University of Oregon) and University College Cork (Ireland), I researched benthic fish composition and density in the shallow sublittoral zone of the Lough Hyne Marine Nature Reserve, the first and oldest marine reserve in Europe. While this fully saltwater lough (lake) has been extensively studied for nearly one hundred years, its protective status was not designated until 1981. Despite such protection, Lough Hyne has suffered a precipitous decline of one of its keystone species, the purple sea urchin Paracentrotus lividus. The main purpose of the multi-year NSF grant was to investigate this population crash and determine whether the low numbers are part of a larger natural cycle or a result of human-induced changes in the surrounding area. One hypothesis for the urchin decline was that the establishment of the marine reserve released the fish populations from small-scale commercial fishing activities (except for one family) and that they directly or indirectly caused reductions in urchin abundance. Thus, my work was meant to quantify the number and types of fish present to determine if there was any evidence of fish that might have consumed urchins when they were in higher numbers.